Blaney Qualifies 16Th In Talladega

TALLADEGA, Al. - Dave Blaney and the No. 93 Dodge Amoco Ultimate team qualified 16th for this weekend's Talladega 500 on Friday. Fellow Dodge drivers Stacy Compton and Sterling Marlin will start on the front row.

Friday was a very good day to be a Dodge driver at Talladega Superspeedway as Intrepid drivers took the top three starting positions for the Talladega 500 on Sunday afternoon.

Leading the Dodge charge was Stacy Compton, who circled the 2.66-mile track at a speed of 184.861 mph to edge Sterling Marlin’s run of 184.576 mph. Bill Elliott was third, followed by Ford drivers Ricky Craven and Mark Martin.

Rounding out the Top 10 were Dale Jarrett, Tony Stewart, Michael Waltrip, Kevin Harvick and Joe Nemechek.

“I’m happy with that and this is pretty cool,” Compton said after winning the first Winston Cup pole of his career. “This is the same car we had at Daytona (when he qualified second), we just made a few modifications to it. It’s still basically the same car and the guys worked real hard to make it better. Ernie Elliott has really worked hard to give us the kind of horsepower we need and we turned in a good lap. I didn’t know where we were going to stack up, but we knew it would be pretty good.

“I feel like we’ve overcome a lot. With all the work the guys did in the shop, we did all we could do.”

Compton didn’t let the fact that his restrictor-plate speed was the slowest pole-winning time in Talladega history rain on his parade.

“Hey, whatever it takes,” Compton joked. “It’s the slowest, but the race will probably be a lot closer than it was at the end of that race.”

On Friday, that was just barely enough to nip the early speed of Marlin, who said he didn’t expect his lap would hold up.

“I figured we’d end up second or third, but we’ll take that and get ready for the race,” said Marlin, a two-time winner at Talladega. “All the guys on the team have done a good job with this car. We came down here last week and tested, and that showed up for us today. I think we’re going to have a good show on Sunday; we'll just have to wait and see how it all works out.

“Hopefully we can take this car to victory lane on Sunday. I feel like we’re going to have a good race.”

Elliott, who won the pole for the season-opening Daytona 500, might want to consider putting his brother Ernie on the payroll of his Ray Evernham-owned team. Ernie Elliott built the engines in the Dodges of both Compton and Marlin.

“We did pretty good, but everybody worked hard with this Dodge,” Elliott said. “We will know more as time progresses in tomorrow’s practice when we can cipher through what kind of car we’ve got. We seem to have a good qualifying package, but we were off just a little bit in the race at Daytona even though we ended up pretty good.”

While Dodge has yet to visit victory lane in its return to Winston Cup competition, things are shaping up pretty well as the manufacturer aims for its first win at Talladega since Dave Marcis won at the Alabama track in the fall of 1976. Marcis qualified 15th for Sunday’s event.

“I’d like to see about 10 of us Dodge teams get hooked up together in the race and go from there,” Compton said. “This is very cool for Dodge because those guys have really put in a lot of hard work. I don’t think there is any kind of rivalry going on between us because if I can’t win, I’d like to see another Dodge team do it.”

Other drivers of note and where they’ll start Sunday: Jeff Gordon (13th), Steve Park (17th), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (19th), Jeff Burton (22nd), Rusty Wallace (26th), Bobby Labonte (30th), Terry Labonte (31st), Ricky Rudd (32nd), Elliott Sadler (38th), Ward Burton (39th) and Jeremy Mayfield (41st).

The drivers who failed to qualify for Sunday’s race were Kenny Wallace, Kyle Petty, Rick Mast, Hut Stricklin and Andy Hillenburg.

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